A contractor preps for a carpet install by applying Bostik adhesive.

Much like the products they create to keep flooring in place, adhesive makers say they are not going anywhere. While the economic climate has led to consolidation of some businesses and a contracting of the market, manufacturers say using the proper adhesive remains a cornerstone of a professional installation and sees continued demand for their products.

To help boost their bottom line, many U.S.-based manufacturers are looking toward international markets, particularly in the Middle East and China. However, the core of their business still remains in America. “We have some international plans going on in the Middle East, but those are probably the smaller segments of the business,” said Chris Eichert, Custom Building Products product manager for setting material marketing. “We continue to have a large national presence in the U.S. and Canada.”

Eichert says his company keeps in step with the domestic market by reformulating its products to meet new demands. “The big thing for us is to get into that commercial, fast-paced business environment,” he says. “It’s get in and get out.” He also says the increased use of glass tile has led to new markets for his company.

An installer places tile on top of mortar from Custom Building Products.

Frank Potter, Stauf Adhesives’ director of operations, sees growth for his company in four areas: “in commercial, with our unique One-Step MS Polymer SMP-960 adhesive, in new market areas where we are not currently represented, in strengthening existing business through education and training” and a focus on innovation.

“The newest thing in wood floor adhesives is the modified silicone polymer-based products,” Potter notes. His company’s new SMP-960 product uses this technology, which offers “easy clean up, no etching, and easy spreading” as well as moisture protection and sound control, Potter says.

Jeff Johnson, MAPEI’s Floor Covering Installation Systems product manager, also says green products are increasingly important. “We strongly believe that sustainability and environmental enrichment are the keys to successful construction products now and in the future,” he notes.

A carpet is carefully laid into MAPEI adhesive.

To that end, MAPEI puts the onus on its R&D department to find new ways to use green materials, such as the recycled content in the company’s Ultrabond 975 wood adhesive. “MAPEI’s vertically integrated polymer-production allows us the ability to be innovative in our research and be prepared to take advantage of any breakthroughs in polymer development,” he adds.

Green products are also posing some unique challenges, according to Jack Raidy Jr., president and CEO of W.F. Taylor. “As the technology develops, we not only have to ensure our products are safer but also will operate efficiently and create a strong bond,” he says.

For example, he says that newer materials, such as renewable and recyclable carpet backings, are more difficult to match up to an adhesive to create a strong enough bond. “Everybody wants green adhesives, but it’s also much more of a challenge to formulate these products,” Raidy says. “R&D remains a major investment.”

Larry Scott, DriTac’s technical director, says with so many competing definitions of green out there, it will be hard to pin down what exactly makes a product environmentally friendly. However, he adds, new formulations can be derived from existing technologies, making it a little easier to stay in step with what the market wants.

An installer preps the floor with Stauf wood flooring adhesive.

“What’s constantly changing in all this talk of green is the target,” Scott says. “You keep hearing of new things that were never before reportable or considered an issue, and now they’re major issues.”

It’s a challenge, he acknowledges, but adds, “We want our entire company to leave a smaller footprint, from manufacturing to shipping to disposal. We want to be as green as we know we can be.”

Another challenge facing some parts of the segment is the rise of glueless “click” flooring installation. But many manufacturers say installers are by and large still using glue to keep the floors down and give them a more solid feel, so they’re seeing very little impact.

“There is plenty of room for those snap and click floors without impacting our product line,” says Phil Pitts, Bostik hardwood installation products market manager. “Multi-family construction, radiant heat floors and commercial installations all still lend themselves to glue-down applications.”

He adds that the adhesives business will continue to grow because more and more companies are asking for floors that require them than ever before. “If you go to an Outback Steakhouse or a hotel lobby, you’ll see wood floors. People 15 years wouldn’t have even considered using wood. By and large that’s because the adhesive technologies have improved dramatically,” he says.

GREENGUARD aims for better air

Dr. Marilyn Black, founder of the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, says her company’s GREENGUARD Certification program is aimed at “improving public health and quality of life through programs that improve indoor air.” The company certifies construction products and furnishings that offer high indoor air quality for educational, healthcare, commercial, residential, and as she puts it, “all other building environments.”

“GREENGUARD Certification is important to the floor industry since source control is one of the most effective ways to improve indoor air quality (IAQ); and source control is even more important in regards to flooring as it covers such a large area of the indoor environment,” she says.

A range of adhesives makers are certified by GREENGUARD, including Laticrete, MAPEI, W.F. Taylor and others. Products carrying the GREENGUARD seal can also earn LEED points.

“Not only does GREENGUARD Certification help attain valuable LEED and other green building points, it also demonstrates a corporate commitment to environmental stewardship on behalf of the manufacturer,” Black says.

She adds her company is always looking at ways to refine its testing criteria. “GREENGUARD is currently working on the development of its newest standards including the incorporation of additional sustainable product attributes, and definitive health-based compliance criteria,” she notes.